About a week or so before Christmas the perfect pup Badge and I spent the day in Dunedin before heading home. Driving through the countryside we passed a sign hanging from a farm gate, Piglets for sale. Slamming on the brakes I stopped and did a u-turn, returning to the gate.
“Are you looking for a piglet?” the man asked.
“Sure,” I nodded. I’ve never had a piglet before, but why not? Afterall, how much trouble could one wee piglet make?
Peering into a muddy pigsty with some piglets running around squealing, I pointed to one. “That one?” I suggested.
“A saddleback,” he said. “Okay.”
With her freckled pink nose and a white stripe running around her belly, the little black piglet was very cute.
Scooping her up, he gave her a shot and dropped her in a sack. He tied up the top and then expertly lopped of a corner of the sack so she could stick her snout out for fresh air. I placed her in the front foot-well of the Jeep, training the cold air down on her to prevent her from overheating.
Driving along, I began to run names through my mind, trying to find a name which incorporated the word ‘ham’ in it. Afterall, I need to remain focused on what the piglet is for…ham…Hamlet! But we hadn’t driven far before Hamlet wriggled around in her sack and lost her air hole. I reached down to try to turn her back and she bit me, ouch!
We soon arrived in Lawrence and I stopped at the petrol station. “May I please borrow a pair of scissors?” I asked.
I then cut a few more air holes in the bag, being careful to keep the tips of the scissors, and my fingers, away from Hamlet’s teeth. Driving on, I began to run through the realities of the situation. Her food, her shelter, her fencing. I know pigs are smart and they require special fencing. Many owners use a tiny pigsty, or an electric fence. But I hate seeing animals confined and I certainly wouldn’t want to electrify the entire five acres of the lower paddock. I had a portable pen which I decided I would erect for a temporary home until I had a new fence erected.
But it was almost two hours later by the time we arrived home and poor Hamlet was suffering dreadfully, her breathing laboured. Placing the sack in her new paddock, I listened to her stressed breathing and quickly made a decision. Cutting open her bag, I helped her to freedom. With some water to wallow in and some crusts of bread in her belly she quickly revived and began to explore her new paddock. Satisfied that she seemed happy, I headed up the hill to home through the gathering darkness.
The following morning I wasn’t totally surprised to find Hamlet was nowhere to be found. It was another hot day and I thought she would be either down at the river at the end of the property, or she would be over in the cool shade of my neighbour’s trees. Leaving some food in a bucket in the unlikely case she returned, I went home and called the neighbours. “If you find a little black piglet on the loose, she’s mine”, I explained.
“We’ll keep an eye out,” they promised.
Late in the afternoon my neighbours called back. They are a lovely couple, very welcoming and hard working and totally down to earth. Hardly the type to place much credence in the airy fairy… yet they often talk to their psychic in Auckland. “Don’t worry”, they report. “The psychic says Hamlet has just gone for a walk and isn’t far away. She’ll be back home soon.”
“But she was only here a short while”, I say. “She won’t even know this is her home.”
But just on the off-chance, I took some more food down to the lower paddock and began to make the small enclosure in case she returned. The ground is hard river flats, more shingle than earth, and well compacted from being a river bed for many millions of years. The sides of the pens have spikes for pushing down into the earth, but this terrain requires a sledge hammer and brute strength. About an hour later I had just hammered in the last spike when I glanced up to see a little black shadow moving swiftly across the paddock. Hamlet!
“Come on,” I encouraged. “I have yummy food for you.” Placing the food in the enclosure, I stood back as Hamlet ran straight in and I closed the gate. She’s home!
“Welcome home Hamlet,” I laughed as she scoffed the bread and vegetable scraps. When I began rubbing her back she stopped eating, closed her eyes, and then gently collapsed onto her food as she stretched out, allowing me to rub her tummy.
If the psychic hadn’t predicted Hamlet’s return would I have been down in the lower paddock with the enclosure ready just as Hamlet turned up? Or would she had wandered over, found neither food nor a tummy rub and moved on elsewhere? I can’t help but feel that without the psychic’s vision, poor Hamlet would have ended up being someone’s Christmas BBQ, browning nicely on the spit.
Within a few days the new fence was erected and Hamlet was given the freedom of almost an acre of land to run around in. It has trees for shade, an A-frame house for shelter and I even dug her a swimming hole so she can wallow in the mud. She loves company and often had her snout pushed up to the fence to say hello to Badge or the goat. And she loved when I visited and rubbed her tummy. So the next time I went to Dunedin I stopped at the pig farm for another piglet to keep her company but there were no piglets left to be had.
A few days later the local paper had an ad for piglets and so Hamster arrived. A pure black piglet with a long snout, she is the result of a wild pig crossed with a Captain Cooker… a descendant of one of the original pigs which arrived with Captain Cook. She is a cunning wee thing, rushing in to snatch food from under Hamlet’s nose, and not liking to be touched. But the two of them get on well and are often to be found lying together in the shade, or in their nest in the paddock.
I had placed four bales of hay in their paddock, not sure what they would use them for… scratching posts, shade, shelter, food? Two of them remain untouched, but the piglets cleverly removed the twine from the other two bales and opened them up into a large nest. Most days they curl up together in the hay for their afternoon siesta.
Cute as two peas in a pod… or two pigs in a snooze.